Waukesha School Board reverses course, votes to participate in federal free meals program

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Waukesha School District rescinded a controversial decision Monday night, Aug. 30, that made it the only school district in the state to opt out of a program that would feed all children.

The meeting had fireworks even before it began. In the end, the board decided to opt in.

A small group of parents and students wanting Waukesha to join the rest of the districts in the state protested ahead of the special meeting.

"It showed a lack of connection to the community they're supposed to serve," said parent Becky Gilligan. "So I'm hoping this vote today they're learned something about the community that they serve."

How to feed students has people on both sides passionate. Waukesha police were called to de-escalate.

Inside the meeting, board members detailed how they've also felt intimidated since the story broke to a national audience.

"The vitriol and insults have destroyed our businesses. To me it's unfathomable. I was told to put a bullet in my head," said Corey Montiho, Waukesha School Board member.

"I have had the Waukesha Police Department at my house all weekend long," said member Kelly Piacsek. "My children's pictures have been posted to Twitter."

For some, their businesses and personal safety have been threatened.

The board was very divided -- some in the audience believed those that flipped their votes did so under public pressure. 

Nearly half said they want to go back to the national free and reduced lunch program that was in place prior to Covid, saying it's a more fiscally responsible choice.

"The truth is that many of our students are hungry throughout the school day and we have the ability to do something about that," said board member Greg Deets.

Sherrie Tussler, with the Hunger Task Force, was hoping the board would change its tune and go with the program that would provide free lunch to all, regardless of income or filling out paperwork. 

"And tonight they need to reverse that decision to make sure that all children are fed in the Waukesha School District," Tussler said.

One board member called the SSO program a waste of time because it's not a permanent solution and encouraged folks who want to help to put themselves out there and make donations.

The program ends on the last day of this school year.

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